Nurses are struggling to deliver safe patient care due to chronic understaffing and a heavy burden of bureaucracy, according to two major union surveys.
Both Unison and the Royal College of Nursing have unveiled a bleak picture of the pressures currently faced by nurses ahead of key conferences taking place this week.
Nearly two-thirds of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants surveyed by Unison said they did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.
Respondents gave examples including not being able to help with feeding, toileting, patient mobility and accurate record keeping.
The survey results, published on Friday, also revealed that 45% of the 1,500 respondents were looking after eight or more patients. One nurse said: “My ward will end up killing someone. That’s how bad it is and how unsafe.”
Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “The hidden voice in the survey must surely be that of the patient who is not getting the level of care they are entitled to expect.
“Introducing minimum nurse to patient ratios would provide a safety net of care, restore public confidence and show nursing staff they are respected and valued,” she said.
Meanwhile, on Sunday the RCN revealed the findings from a survey of more than 6,300 nurses, which it said showed nurses were “drowning in a sea of paperwork”.
Most of those surveyed, 86%, said non-essential paperwork had increased over the past two years, with 55% saying it had increased dramatically. More than four out of five nurses said paperwork prevented them from giving care to patients.
The college estimates nurses are spending a total of 2.5 million hours a week on paperwork – equivalent to 17.3% of all the hours worked by NHS nurses in the UK.
RCN chief executive Peter Carter said: “Some paperwork is essential and nurses will continue to do this, but patients want their nurses by their bedside, not ticking boxes.”
The NHS Confederation is to carry out a review of the bureaucracy burden in the NHS. It is due to report on its findings and make recommendations in September. Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said: “It is clear we need to do more to free staff from the shackles of unnecessary form filling.”
- RCN Congress is taking place in Liverpool this week, while Unison’s health conference is in Glasgow. Keep up-to-date with news from both events at nursingtimes.net.